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Task force urges bone density tests for more women

Routine screening for osteoporosis should include all postmenopausal women who have at least the same chance of a bone break as an older woman, a government task force said.

Also, for the first time, the group weighed whether men should be checked for the bone-thinning disease, but it decided there wasn't enough evidence to recommend the screening.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's draft guidelines, issued Monday, widen its 2002 advice, when it first said that all women over 65, plus those 60 to 64 at higher risk for fractures, should get a bone density test.

The task force says all younger postmenopausal women should get checked if their risk of a broken bone is the same or greater than for the average 65-year-old woman. Factors that can increase risk include low weight, certain drugs, smoking, heavy alcohol use and a parent who broke a hip.

"The majority of the evidence supports screening and treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women," the task force wrote. The task force had been considering the move, but the reaction to its controversial mammogram guidelines last fall spurred the group to open the process earlier, said Dr. Ned Calonge, head of the panel.

Also yesterday, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a review done for the task force of the latest research on screening methods, bone-building drugs and tools to calculate one's risk of low bone density and fractures. - AP

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